German lock Bodo Sieber, who captained UCT in their 16-16 Intervarsity draw against the Maties at Newlands last Saturday, says he came to South Africa to play ‘real rugby’ reports rugby365.com
Sieber, known as the ‘Door’, spoke to varsitycup.co.za about his team’s outstanding performance against the Varsity Cup champions, comparing club rugby to World Cup qualifiers and how he arrived in Cape Town in the first place.
(1) Varsity Cup (VC): Tell us a bit about yourself; you’re German, but how did you end up in Cape Town and playing for UCT?
Bodo Sieber (BS): “I grew up and started playing rugby in Germany, where the sport has a surprising tradition – my club in Heidelberg was founded 1902 – but it has a small public profile, competing against king Fussball and other sports.
“After I finished school and my military service, I wanted to go and experience a real rugby country. South Africa was an obvious option, so I arrived when I was 20 years old – pretty much a week after I had played for Germany against the Boks with Chester Williams and Paul Treu in the Uruguay Sevens. I had a contact at UCT through a friend who had played here and the club made me feel very welcome and was a great social foundation. I played Under-20 rugby with guys like Brent Russell and Stephen Knoop (now Leinster). Then I started studying and stayed.”
(2) VC: How long have you been in Cape Town now? Do you consider it home?
BS: “It has been nine years next year and yes, I do consider it home, but I do have firm roots in Germany as well, because my parents are still there, of course.”
(3) VC: How did you get into rugby in Germany?
BS: “Germany doesn’t have school sports like SA, so if you want to play basketball, soccer or anything as a kid you have to join a club. I had never even heard of rugby, when a mate at school arrived with a black eye and a rugby ball and got me signed up for his club’s Under-13 team.”
(4) VC: When did you first play for the German national team?
BS: “I played two Under-19 World Cups in Chile and France and then got my first cap against Tunisia in 1998, as a very green 19-year-old lock. Tunisia, incidentally, disposed of the SA Vipers in the Tangiers Sevens semifinals last weekend.”
(5) VC: Where do Germany stand in terms of their ranking/rating in world rugby?
BS: “Germany just got promoted to the Six Nations B – the top league of the European Nations Cup, so we are in the top 12 in Europe and ranked 26th in the world. Now we get to play against relative heavyweights such as Romania and Georgia.
“Many of their players play top-level rugby in France, which is why Georgia made Ireland work very hard for a narrow 14-11 win in the 2007 World Cup. It is always great to play for your country, so if there are any good players around with a German passport, give me a shout (laughs).”
(6) VC: Are you enjoying captaining UCT?
BS: “Yes, it is good fun and of course also a great honour! I have played 200 games or so for the first team and had previously captained the side on occasion, so I have been around the block you could say!
“We have a very enjoyable set-up at UCT, with the right mix of professionalism and a winning culture and at the same time there is a lot of fun and guys get an opportunity to express themselves on the field. I guess one of my jobs is keeping the reins tight when need be, because we have a very talented, but also a very young and excitable team in this tough Western Province Super League.”
(7) VC: How are you feeling after Intervarsity; disappointed or happy with the 16-16 draw?
BS: “I am very disappointed that we didn’t keep our foot down in the last 15 minutes, but allowed them back into the game after having them against the wall. Opportunities to win silverware are very rare, so these chances need to be taken whenever possible. I was part of the side that won Intervarsity in 2004; it was a truly special achievement and it would have been a great win for the record books.
“Incidentally, it was an 8-8 draw against Maties in 2002 that turned UCT’s fortunes around and since then we have become more and more competitive and now there is really not much between both sides when we play each other. The last six games played in the league and Varsity Cup have produced a total points’ difference of just five points overall – UCT 129 Maties 134.”
(8) VC: What is the difference in quality when it comes to comparing a RWC qualifier between Germany and Russia and an Intervarsity encounter between Stellenbosch and UCT? Which is better?
BS: “The games over there are much slower and there is quite a bit more kicking – there are notorious and hard forward battles, like when Germany played against Georgia and it was 10-5 to them after 60 minutes. Russia played against Tukkies earlier in the year and lost narrowly – they have a very balanced team, all of whom are professionals.
“Germany lost to them about two weeks ago, they have a big pack, with a surprisingly skilled backline with good structures and tactical awareness. My bet is they will qualify for the next World Cup. However, Maties or Ikeys would beat all the teams in that league, with better handling, continuity and quicker backlines – but they would get bruised up front.”
(9) VC: What do you think of the Varsity Cup? You’re one of the older guys at the club; is it a big disappointment that you are not eligible for the VC?
BS: “The Varsity Cup is an excellent tournament and a brilliant opportunity for the guys to get some high-profile exposure.
“Yes, it is disappointing not to get a shot at it (‘Door’ is too old to play in the VC – ed.), but I do feel that everybody benefits from the spin-offs it creates for the entire club. UCT, in particular, have received some welcome attention, I think the Varsity Cup really has breathed new life and interest in the club rugby scene as well, because spectators and players want to see their teams compete against the sides that do well on the VC stage.”
(10) VC: What are UCT’s aims for the rest of 2009?
BS: “We are looking to improve our game week by week and look forward to some mighty clashes with Maties and Hamilton’s. Come September we are hoping to be in a position to challenge for the league title.”